LA have had several great starts under Guillermo Barros Schelotto's guidance, but following them up with stellar second halves has been difficult, and another subpar showing following the break might have cost them their perfect record at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The Galaxy pulled out a 2-1 victory on a late goal by -- who else? -- Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but they were second-best in the second half, and that's becoming a recurring theme that has Schelotto concerned.
Ibrahimovic, not so much.
“Think it happened [two weeks ago against] Philadelphia, today, and I think in the [March 9 loss at FC] Dallas, too, but we are thinking why, obviously,” Schelotto said during his postgame media session after the Galaxy (7-1-1) extended their unbeaten streak to seven games with their sixth triumph in as many home games.
“We are going to improve in this, because it's very important to keep playing 90 minutes. ... I hope the team will work very well during the 90 minutes, not just 45 minutes and that's it.”
The Galaxy in the second half against Philadelphia lacked the energy they presented before the break, and it happened again six days later against Houston, although a Dynamo equalizer sparked a resurgence in a 2-1 win. Now it's three straight home games in which they've not been what they've wanted to be in minute 46 and beyond.
“I think it's definitely a reoccurring thing, and we definitely need to correct that, that aspect of our game,” midfielder Sebastian Lletget said. “We need to come out second half with guns blazing and kind of carry on where we were from the first half. ... I think it's something mental that we need to address within the group, and as soon as we come out second half, we need to get together, start the first 15 minutes strong, and our talent will show.”
LA played some beautiful soccer in the first half against RSL, but a solid plan to stifle Ibrahimovic kept them from making the most of it. Uriel Antuna's first MLS goal, from Chris Pontius' feed after a sweet, defense-splitting pass into the box by center back Diego Polenta, provided a 16th-minute lead, the earliest they've tallied this season. Joe Corona should have tallied in the second minute, and several others -- Pontius, Daniel Steres, Lletget and Ibrahimovic -- had opportunities they'd surely like another stab at.
After the break, RSL had far more possession, outshot the Galaxy by an 18-3 margin, and might have had the lead had Damir Kreilach's blast off the crossbar 10 minutes before Donny Toia's equalizer been an inch or so lower. The Claret-and-Cobalt were pushing hard, and LA struggled to get near their attacking third.
“I think we played really good in the first half, and then [at halftime] we had to tell them [that if we] get the ball, we have the possibility to score another one,” Schelotto said. “Real Salt Lake never could get the ball in the first half, and then we were talking about we had to go to the field and try and score the second goal and finish [the game], but you could see nothing happen what we were talking about.
“[RSL] managed the ball, they managed the game, they get to tie the game -- even [before] they scored, I saw, you could see the goal was coming -- but I like that after [Toia's 64th-minute goal], we fight. Not play really good, not we tried, and we got the second goal, and we won a very hard game.”
Ibrahimovic had to drop into midfield to get on the ball in the first half, and he escalated a battle with RSL center back Nedum Onuoha to “feel alive” and “get angry” in an effort to lift his performance. It worked: He tallied from Lletget's pass after Polenta, who had a goal against Houston, chipped a ball into the box.
“I don't think [it's a problem],” he said. “I think today was the fatigue. Today we were a little bit tired in the second [half], we couldn't keep up the same rhythm from the first. But every game is a different game. So I think we did good. ... I think we're doing good. We are one draw, one loss, the rest we won, so we have to keep going to do what we're doing.”